A New Hampshire Department of Transportation crew and team of contractors recently found themselves in the right place at the right time to save a man from drowning in the bone-chilling waters of Lake Winnipesaukee near the town of Alton.
[Above photo courtesy of NHDOT]
Early on November 30, a seven-person NHDOT highway maintenance team and four-person crew from Top Notch Tree Service started working to remove an old wooden boat dock on the shoreline of Lake Winnipesaukee along Route 11.
While dismantling the dock and loading it via crane onto a tractor trailer, they noticed a man jet skiing out on the water like it was the middle of summer and not a 25-degree winter day.
That’s when they started to hear low muffled cries for help – yells barely audible over the loud noise of the crane, equipment, and passing traffic. That’s also when they realized the man was fighting for his life, as his Jet Ski had conked out and was slowing slowly sinking into the frigid depths of the lake.
While NHDOT Highway Maintainer Shawn Cullen quickly dialed 911, the rest of the NHDOT and Top Notch Tree crew members sprang into action; some encouraging the man to keep swimming as he struggled to stay afloat in the icy water, while others frantically searched for some sort of boat so they could paddle out and pluck him from the lake.
“All the summer homes were now empty; void of any signs of life,” noted NHDOT Construction Foreman Patrick Holland. “There was no one but us. The man’s head went down numerous times and we had no clue if he was coming back up. We also knew we, too, would be victims as well if we tried to swim out in the freezing water to reach him. Helplessness is the best way to describe how we all felt.”
Luckily, after finding a kayak and a canoe, members of the NHDOT and Top Notch Tree crews paddled out to the drowning man and managed to pull him to the shore. By this point, the half-drowned man was turning blue and unresponsive from his long exposure to the 41-degree water; fortunately, that is when the local fire department arrived.
Using brute strength, the NHDOT and Top Notch Tree crew members hauled the man up steep embankment and then gently handed him over the roadside guardrail to waiting paramedics, who placed him on a stretcher and warmed him back up to consciousness in their ambulance.
“We were all out of breath and depleted of energy, but as the paramedics drove away, we were all hopeful that man would be okay,” said Holland.
In a statement, William Cass – NHDOT commissioner – commended the actions of all the NHDOT and contractor crew members involved for their quick-thinking, selfless, and brave actions that ended up saving a man’s life.
“This was really a heroic effort with a great outcome,” Cass said.